Enjoy the holidays with less stress and more fun. These tips and strategies can help you handle busyness, tension, or an overloaded calendar. More happy, less stress!
The holidays are an important and meaningful time, but they can also bring pressure, an overloaded schedule, and added stress. Picture-perfect social media feeds may leave you feeling like you’re not doing enough. Invitations and special events can quickly fill your calendar. Your own beloved traditions bring you joy, but also add to your task list. And, of course, there are many extra opportunities to eat and drink rich holiday foods. Indulgence can be lovely at times, but too much may leave you feeling exhausted and unwell.
Handling the holidays with joy–not stress–requires thoughtfulness and courage. It’s easy enough for people to advise you to “say No” and “take it easy”; it’s quite another thing to feel that you’re disappointing people you care about. Here are some tips and strategies that may help.
1. Stay true to your personal routines
Dropping something from your day may seem like the best way to gain more time. But neglecting the routines that keep you stable leads to bad feelings, mentally and physically. Don’t drop your exercise routine, your time alone, your journaling or meditation habits: these keep you grounded and well. Make them non-negotiable by putting a scheduled time for each important routine on your calendar.
2. Enjoy treats at events; eat healthy at home
To balance your intake of richer holiday treats (and drinks), try this simple rule: enjoy the special, more decadent foods at social events. Have moderate portions. At home, stick to healthy, real, whole foods and drink lots of water. You can have a balance and enjoy the treats without letting them take over your diet.
If you have trouble moderating your portions, eat a full, healthy meal at home before you attend a social function. If you show up hungry, of course it will be more difficult to choose reasonable amounts. A satisfied stomach (and hydrated body) will help curb the craving for those sugary, rich treats.
3. Be honest about your holiday budget
It adds up fast: the gifts, the travel, the activities, and all the extras. If you’re not realistic about what you can spend on holiday fun, you may end up with bills that follow you into the new year. That knowledge in the back of your mind will create stress. Although it can be difficult to say no to others, you’re being kind to yourself and your finances. If gift-giving is a large financial strain, try some of the suggestions below.
4. Simplify gift giving
Peruse your gift list. Many times, we get into gift-giving habits, and continue buying and exchanging things that no one needs. There are other ways to show appreciation and affection. This year, determine to be thoughtful and conscious, which is a gift to yourself, to others, and to the earth.
- Pare your gift giving list to the essentials: perhaps your immediate family members only.
- Set a budgeted amount for each person on your gift list.
- Choose one or two meaningful gifts over many items.
- Communicate your decision to simplify gift-giving so others can also be relieved of what might be a burden. Try a simple message such as, “We’ve chosen to simplify the holidays and focus on meaningful time together over more shopping.” Invite others to do the same.
- A gift is meant to show appreciation and affection; there are other ways to show these sentiments without shopping and spending. Send a thoughtful card; write a letter or email; make a phone call; offer to help; share a meal; enjoy time together.
5. Be strategic about social functions
Holiday parties, family gatherings, travel plans, school activities, community events, and more: each one is an opportunity for connection, and also an opportunity for added stress. Here’s one important tip: you don’t have to handle things the way you’ve always handled them. You can think carefully about what causes stress, and what doesn’t. Then, with strategic choices, you can reduce those stressors and increase your own holiday enjoyment.
- If certain relationships and potential conversations cause a lot of tension, practice a few scripted lines to stop the conversations before they start. Here are a few examples:
- “This is a topic we disagree on and I’d rather not spend our time in disagreement.”
- “Let’s talk about something we both enjoy instead.”
- “Can we agree to enjoy each other’s company? Let’s do that.”
- “You know, I find these conversations stressful. Let’s take a break from this topic.”
- Determine a leaving time with your significant other before you arrive at a party or other event. You don’t have to stay until it’s all over. When you leave a social function is entirely up to you, so think it through before you go. Agree on a time with your partner, and set an alarm on your phone or watch. You don’t have to wear yourself out or become exhausted.
- Go with a plan. Social events can be overwhelming! To stave off the anxiety, think of a simple plan first. What do you want to enjoy at the party? Who do you want to talk to? Having a short mental list, like, “Ask Aunt Sally about her gardening, and catch up with the cousins” gives you a focus.
6. Take time for rest, down-time, and enjoyment.
What makes you feel pampered, rested, and refreshed? Maybe it’s a day at home in your pajamas. Maybe it’s a morning without an agenda. Perhaps it’s an extra-long exercise session, a coffee date with friends, or an evening of live music. Whatever it is, your well-being is boosted when you do things you love. You’ll be refreshed and energized, and that’s better for everyone.
But it’s up to you to make these things happen. Take the time you need by marking it on your calendar. Block out that morning without meetings, or add the night out and book the babysitter.
7. Get help for tasks and everyday life
You may not normally hire a house cleaner or purchase pre-made salads; but these services and conveniences are there to help ease your to-do list. If you try to do everything yourself, the details may take up all your time. Instead, focus your time and energy on the work, traditions, and events that matter most to you. Outsource the tasks you can, and opt for convenience and simplicity.
- Pick up a treat to share instead of baking all afternoon; it’s okay!
- Take advantage of helpful services: laundry service, house cleaning, catering, and other professional services can be affordable and free up a lot of time. And some services are available at no cost; many stores, for instance, offer shopping concierge services and free gift wrapping. You just need to ask.
- Communicate with your people about what needs to be done. If you’re the chief organizer, schedule maker, and task manager, you need to be upfront with the rest of your team: both at work, and at home. Make lists, delegate, and ask for help.
How you spend your holiday season is up to you. It’s okay to be deliberate with your choices. It’s good to set priorities. And it’s truly magical to honor your own limits and desires, during this season and always. Here are more ideas about staying organized during the holidays.